Monday, January 10, 2005

The Paradox of Modern Warfare in Central Asia and the Middle East

Modern warfare as we know it today, cannot possibly be as effective as it once was during World War II, especially when applied to the countries within the Middle East and *Central Asia. In order to be efficient in warfare, once must know the enemy as well as one's own self. It is impossible to commit to an escalated conflict, without realizing the psychology and social organization amongst the people recognized as the Enemy. Particularly difficult in assessing such situations, are conflicts that are not fought against a particular state, but a select few who have chosen a different path towards self-rule.
The current "war on terror" is not as delineated as the populace is lead to believe. What actually defines a terrorist as opposed to a freedom fighter? Terrorist is such a blanket term, that these days, can be applied not only to a group that sets the stage of fear on an international scene, but to groups that fight within their own ethnic soil to retain their land and values. When the American colonies decided to defy the British Crown by any means necessary, they were not viewed as terrorists today, but as Freedom Fighters, or Revolutionaries who struggled to retain self-rule and autonomy. When a group of Bostonians decided to dump tea into the Boston Harbor, they were revolting against what they saw as oppression by the British Crown. If Iraqi "insurgents" decide to explode oil pipelines and conduits that fuel what they deem as foreign oppression on their own soil, how is that action different from those of the American Revolutionaries? When Palestinians feel oppression through walls, barricades, constant humiliation, and checkpoints at every turn on their own soil, how can one not react to such external threats? The very fact that only a small minority of Palestinians or Iraqis actually rise to break the bonds that have resulted in exploitation and humiliation is constantly glossed over by the Western, and particularly American media. The fact is, in terms of the general population, many people resent oppression, but few actually feel so dissatisfied and inpatient, that they decide to turn to violence in order to achieve their goals of autonomy. By watching and listening to Media coverage, one is lead to believe that the threat of insurgency comes from every single individual, but in truth, that is not the case. If one looks at the actual figures, those that wish for peaceful means and resolution FAR outweigh those resorting to violence to achieve their objectives.
The borders of the countries that are found within the Middle East and *Central Asia are just lines drawn by Western Imperialist during the heights of their territorial extent. Afghanistan for example, should not be considered a unified sovereign nation as the United States, Germany, France, or any number of examples. Similarly, the borders of most of the African countries was demarcated by Imperialists establishing colonies, and not based on common ethnicity or values. When one looks at the extent of civil war and social upheavel in Africa, one must understand the range of exploitation and division that was thrust upon the many different people by European Impersialism. I will not dwell on the African situation too much yet, that will a seperate post, but it's helpful just as an extended example of the similar situation in Central Asia and the Middle East.
The fact that borders are recognized by cartographers, does not mean that the indegenous populations, especially those that are nomadic, also accept those "paper" lines drawn by others. Going back to the example of Afghanistan, all Afghans are definately not of one ethnic tribe or shared values. The Pashtun, Tajik, Hazaras, Uzbek, and Turkmen amongst many others do not share all the common values or goals between themselves. Each group would prefer to have their own leaders to that of the other's. When one speaks of warlords, it's a battle, both figuratively and literally, between the different ethnic groups (and in many cases, within one ethnic group) to provide a leader that can best succeed at the goals shared by the community. This unrecognized border is the reason for the porous nature between the mountains of Afghanistan and Pakistan. It's not as though there are fences or other obstructive structures through the whole extent of the territorial lines. In fact, there are countless passes, and caves, that provide a ready made conduit between the two nations (as we recognize them in the West). It should be no surprise that Osama Bin Laden, or any other person has such an easy access between the two regions. It's unbelievably stupid and naive for one to know this information, and still believe it's an attainable goal to capture everyone sought after, especially deemed so highly within a region. Of course, many have been captured, thanks to modern technology, but just as many have evaded detection. Further, it would be extremely difficult to convince an ethnic group that share a border, and live between both regions, to decide and recognize the international lines.
Similar to the situation in Afghanistan, Iraq also has various ethnic groups vying for dominance, and hoping to either control their own region, or the whole of the nation. Generally, Iraq has three main divisions within it's populace. There are Sunni Muslims, generally living within the central region of the country, Shiia (or Shiite) with ties to Iranians, living within the Southern third, as well as the Kurds, found within the Northern extent of Iraqi territory. Hearing the leaders of the United States, as well as the vocal media, assuming that the Shiia would accept American forces with open arms seemed like an insane notion, especially when one understands the social intricacies within Iraq. How could the Shiia, with ties to Iran, an "Axis of Evil" nation, readily accept invading "Coalition of the Willing" (an interestingly stupid term) forces, when the Iranian leaders look to the West, particularly America with such animosity and contempt? It is impossible to win the hearts and minds of a people that don't want to have anything to do with the values and interests of the occupying forces.
One cannot win a "War on terror" or succeed in an occupation (even if it's labelled as a transitory democracy) with a people that are so divided, that their only common thread is the hatred of the foreign occupiers. Even the Kurds, with all the friendliness and help that they provided to the West, are constantly left to their own defense. They are used and discarded so often, that even a recycled bottle would be surprised at the extent of abuse.
With all this in mind then, how can one work to better the situation? What does one have to do under the current situation that we're presented with? Personally, in terms of Iraq, I believe a form of Confederation should be instituted. No central rule should be forced upon the Iraqi people. I think Iraq should be divided into three semi-autonomous republics, Kurdistan in the North, Central Iraq, and Southern Iraq (within the Shiia governance). This would be the fairest, and least conflict prone method of solving the situation. I realize it's far too late now, to suddenly pull back the occupying forces, because a civil war will ensue. Therefore, what the current forces should attempt is to allow the Iraqi's semi-autonomy within the regional powerhouses. This of course will never happen, because the resources would also be divided, and exploitation cannot occur at the extent to justify the conflict.
The same Confederate solution should also be applied to Afghanistan. Provide each region with ethnic majorities semi-autonomy, and allow the populace to vote. I realize the semi-autonomous republics would argue over the borders drawn, but that is what the United Nations along with the indegenous population could work out.
A detractor might say, where is the evidence for such a Confederate nation to succeed? I would like to point out Switzerland as an example. In a previous post, I've already discussed the Swiss configuration, so I'll try to keep it summarized. Switzerland is divided into 7 semi-autonomous cantons, with a rotating president among the different regions. The central government is generally weak, and presides over such bodies as the military, education, transport. I think a similar situation in Iraq would work, as long as there is international backing for such an endeavor. The same can be said for Afghanistan, and many of the countries within Africa.

*When I refer to Central Asia, Afghanistan is not the only conflict prone region. The fact is many of the former Soviet Republics, such as Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan are also under a similar ethnic compositional difference as Afghanistan. The only differnce is the fact that those Central Asian nations have Authoritarian rulers, brandishing the laws of governance and commerce with an iron fist when applicable.

No comments: